Robot babysitters? Sounds like every parent’s fantasy, right? Just in case these robo-sitters are the Next Big Thing, researchers at the University of Washington are busy studying how these machines would affect our kids. Will kids develop an emotional attachment to them? Will they treat robo-caregivers as people — or like tools that can be bought and sold?
“We need to talk about how to best design social robots for children, because corporations will go with the design that makes the most money, not necessarily what’s best for children,” says Peter Kahn, UW associate professor of psychology.
Kahn and his research team are exploring how children interact socially with a humanoid robot. In a new study, the researchers report that children exchanged social pleasantries, such as shaking hands, hugging and making small talk, with a remotely controlled, human-like robot. Nearly 80 percent of the children — ages 9, 12 or 15 — believed that the robot was intelligent, and 60 percent believed it had feelings. The kids also said that the robot could be bought, sold and should not have the right to vote.
The findings show that the social interactions with the robot (named Robovie) led children to develop feelings for the robot. Kahn believes that as social robots become pervasive in our everyday lives, they can benefit children — but might also weaken their emotional and social development.
Float these rules!
We love our easy access to water and all it entails: boating, water-skiing, water sports. But water safety is imperative, especially when kids join the family on the lake. The Sea Tow Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to boating safety and education, offers the following tips for keeping kids safe:
1. Life jackets Be sure all kids wear a life jacket when the boat is moving. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all children younger than 13 years of age wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the vessel is being operated, unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin on board.
2. Safety starts ashore Get the kids into the habit of putting on sunblock and a hat even before boarding the boat. If you have small children, put them in their life jackets in the parking lot. That way, they’re protected if they accidentally tumble off the dock and into the water.
3. Clear the decks When you climb aboard, have everyone stow their gear and any water toys away neatly, but keep the life jackets on.
4. The captain is in charge The adult who is driving the boat should give the kids a safety lesson before leaving the dock. Set a few basic rules, including:
- No running on deck.
- No sitting on the side rails, foredeck, dashboard or swim platform when the boat is under way.
- Advise them to use grab rails to steady themselves if the boat rocks. Instruct children not to walk around while the boat is in motion.
- Radio check Be sure everyone knows how to operate the boat’s VHF radio in case of an emergency.
- Toys When towing kids behind a boat on inflatable water toys, water skis or a wakeboard, be sure to designate an adult or teen to be the official watcher. Teach the kids hand signals they can use to tell you to speed up, go slower or stop.
How do you teach kids good Internet manners? Edutopia.org, a website dedicated to improving education, culled “netiquette” ideas from several schools and came up with these suggestions for students:
1. Don’t send very personal or sensitive information through email.
2. Don’t put something in email if you would be embarrassed to have your message read out loud to your mother — in a courtroom.
3. Pay attention to grammar and spelling. People will form an opinion of you based on how you write.
4. Use spell-check and review every message before sending it.
5. Before hitting “send,” ask yourself if you would say what you’ve written to that person’s face.
6. It is much easier to delay sending an email than it is to try to repair the damage from a hurtful message.
7. If you really can’t help typing an angry response, don’t send it immediately. Walk around the block, do some homework or watch TV, then reread your message and tone it down before sending it.
Prescription painkillers affect newborns
The number of newborns addicted to prescription painkillers has nearly tripled in less than 10 years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “These medications provide superior pain control for cancer and chronic pain, but have been overprescribed, diverted, and sold illegally, creating a new opiate addiction pathway and a public health burden for maternal and child health,” the report says.
In addition to seizures and breathing problems, babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, often suffer from low birth weight, irritability, muscle cramping, tremors, feeding problems, vomiting and watery stools.
Reflect on this
How can you create a culture of calm and reflection in your house? Try “reflective parenting.” Reflective parenting means interacting with your child while keeping a close eye on his — and your — state of mind and emotion. It’s empathy, patience, and intuition all rolled into one. Here are some tips, from the book, Beyond Smart: Boosting Your Child’s Social, Emotional, and Academic Potential:
1. Remember your child is a separate being.
2. Slow down and think about what’s really behind your child’s behavior.
3. Pay attention to your own feelings.
4. Think about ways to cope with your stress and anger.
5. Talk with your child about emotions — yours and your child’s.
6. Give your child 15 minutes a day of your undivided attention.
7. Don’t teach or preach during those 15 minutes.
For more information on reflective parenting, go to communityofmindfulparents.com.